How do you get nine celebrities up Kilimanjaro? With difficulty
Comic Relief challenge required mobile catering team and 500kg of recording kit
Friday 13 March 2009
To millions of television viewers it looked like the heroic triumph of nine celebrities over Africa's highest mountain. In reality, Comic Relief's conquering of Mount Kilimanjaro required 33 climbers, half a tonne of broadcasting equipment, two doctors, 100 porters, two runners, open-air latrines and an awful lot of soup.
The scaling of the Tanzanian peak by a team of pop stars, DJs and television presenters has so far raised £1.6m for Red Nose Day and is on track to raise the highest-ever amount for a charity expedition with its step-by-step account of the travails of Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow et al on their dogged eight-day ascent.
But while the celebrity mountaineers were last night being feted by Gordon Brown at a Downing Street reception and their ordeal with stomach upsets and altitude sickness was being shown on a BBC1 documentary, the story of their support team, including a detachment of security guards, and the operation to film the climb, has received little attention.
Seven months in the planning, the project involved a vast logistical effort to place camera crews, medical facilities and state-of-the-art film editing facilities in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, a 5,895m dormant volcano situated in the wilderness of north-east Tanzania. A total of 43 people, including the nine celebrities, travelled to Africa before setting up a series of camps under the instruction of two expert guides to allow BBC film crews to leapfrog the climbing celebrities and capture the agony and ecstasy of their ascent.
Simon Albert, one of the guides and the managing director of Charity Challenge, a London-based company which specialises in fundraising expeditions, said: "The artists had to work incredibly hard and they made it to the summit by pulling together extremely well. But behind them it was like a military operation in terms of getting everything prepared.
"We had to get 500kg of recording equipment up on to the mountain, including two editing suites to make the documentary. Every day, there was a runner who had to run down the mountain to deliver the footage ready for editing. We have to write a risk assessment for each expedition, which normally runs to 36 pages. This time it was more than 100 pages."
Weather conditions, which saw temperatures reach 30C by day and minus 15C by night, meant that as they neared the summit during a pre-dawn trek five days ago, each of the climbers was swathed in four pairs of trousers, six fleece tops and a balaclava.
Such were the physical demands – the final assault on the summit required 18 hours of continuous walking in oxygen levels half those at sea level – that the expedition required a mobile catering team to provide sufficient calories.
Mr Albert said: "The film crews had to be up before the celebrities, hike ahead and work while the others were resting. It was exceptionally hard work – I think the last two days were the toughest I've had in this work. We were dealing with 75mph winds and extreme cold. On the descent, we had to go past our first camp because the wind was destroying it, bending tents and blowing them away."
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...